The Fire are out of playoff contention but they could eliminate Columbus with a win on Thursday night. They can also do some damage to the New England Revolution (currently in 7th), and Toronto FC (vying for the top spot in the East) in the last two matches of the season.
Veljko Paunovic isn't recapping the season just yet. He says he's willing to talk more in-depth about a review once the campaign draws to a close. In the meantime, there are still those three games remaining. Paunovic addressed the Crew match during his weekly conference call.
Here are the highlights:
On whether any individual players have impressed in training lately
"I would say everyone is working hard. Working good. Pushing hard to earn the spot and the opportunity, or to keep the spot if he is playing so I wouldn't remark (about) anyone specifically. I think the mood is good. Guys are motivated. We keep the motivation high, even though it's difficult for us to know that we are out of the playoffs. The good thing about it, the good thing about our team is that we have a very competitive group. Everyone is very professional. Everyone wants to give their best until the end of the season. In the next three games we have the opportunity to play and forge the mentality and the identity which is still to improve but I think this year, so far we were building that character that the team needs in order to be successful."
"Everyone is doing their best."
On Doody, Fernandez, Conner, and Calistri
"As I said. Everyone is doing the same. They are pushing hard. They are doing their best. I think that is something that is important for the team and for each player individually."
On Accam and Fernandez return from international duty
"Collin joined us this morning. He flew back last night very late so today we had a re-gen session for him. On David, we will know today as we don't have any information from Ghana's federation on when he's coming back (or) regarding his flight. We are working on that. Probably he's going to be (back) on Wednesday. We have to know that still. Once both of them are here, Collin is here but we have to evaluate him through the next couple of days, so we can see if they can be available for the next match."
"We have guys with some issues but right now on the injury report Matt Lampson came back. Today was the first full-go session and he did well. Everyone is, there are guys with issues, but we still believe that we can everyone ready for the next game at this point."
On road weariness on the last trip
"We always want to stay positive. We all know the challenges of our league. We never want to take that as an excuse for any performance in any game. As I've said, all other teams at some point during the season have the same kind of stretches where they have to manage and adjust in order to have the team ready to compete for every game. It's always going to be like that. We're playing on a continent and we know the challenges and we have to deal with that. I will stay always positive and I believe that's actually good for the players and for the team. They know that if they are doing well in their job during the week and during the season - the recovery, training, eating well, resting well, and having fun which is also important for the soul - I think that's a great opportunity for everyone to maximize his performance. That's where we always have to work with our recruiting, and with our selection where we have to find the guys that are very aware of these things and will not be affected by the distance and everything that is a challenge in our league. I will stay positive. I think our guys did a good job. We still have three games to play before we summarize anything but I think so far, the preparation and the recovery was good."
On a second consecutive game against Columbus
"What I expect is reaction. Reaction from the last game. I think the last game in losing against one of our rivals that are very, very important for our supporters, the performance wasn't good, especially in the second half. The first half, I would say it was good, but the only thing was that we have to convert opportunities. Important opportunities we had. I expect reaction and I expect the team playing with pride. I think it's a great opportunity for us to finish the season on a positive side. Not only this game, we go one game at a time but we have three games in front of us. This is our approach. Playing one game at a time and having the goal to finish the season with the best possible we can do."